Learning Curve: Alpine Skis

In the Store:
If you're buying just one pair of skis (and not building a quiver), look for a set that matches your style of skiing and the terrain you frequent 70 percent of the time. And don't be afraid to upgrade: Buy skis slightly above your ability level—they're (almost) as easy to ski on, and you won't outgrow them in a year.

On the Hill:
If, like most people, you get your skis professionally tuned only once a year, at least make the most of it by deburring and sharpening your own edges and waxing the base.

On the Road:
Gravel, salt, and road grime corrode bindings, rust edges, and degrade ski bases. Throw your precious new boards in the car or, better yet, get a roof box. When flying, make sure you pad the inside of your bag with laundry, especially around the tips and tails. Boots? Take 'em, and always carry them on. Rental boots are disgusting.

Learning Curve: Snowboards

Gnu Altered Genetics Snowboard
Gnu Altered Genetics Snowboard (Shana Novak)

In the Store:
Where do you go and what do you like to ride? If you head to Utah for powder, look for a longer, wider all-mountain board. Or if you gravitate to Colorado resorts for pipe-and-park playing, go with a shorter board with good spin and flex. And if you're unsure what you like, try a few different types before buying.

In the Field:
Keep some hardware close at hand, like Bakoda's Pocket Tool ($20; bakoda.com) for on-mountain binding adjustments, rub-on wax for a quick application after lunch, and an edge tool for occasional detuning before park runs. Check regularly for burrs on the board's edges and use an edge tuner to file them down. Even new base materials need regular waxing. It's best to apply temperature-appropriate wax, but if in doubt, an all-temperature mix like Hillbilly Wax-Works' Coffin Polish Wax ($18) will suffice.

At Home:
Before storing it for the off-season, wax your board and scrape it while it's still hot. Then apply hot wax again. Store your board in a cool place out of direct sunlight to prevent the base from drying out.

Learning Curve: Backcountry Skis

Movement Goliath Backcountry Skis
Movement Goliath Backcountry Skis (Shana Novak)

In the Store:
Only a few companies still market some skis as "telemark" and others as "alpine touring," but we don't believe in segregation: Buy the boards you like best. And, yes, you can put alpine-touring or telemark bindings on alpine skis—just be aware that they might be much heavier. And take the time to get the right boots: Nothing ruins a day in the backcountry faster than blisters.

In the Field:
Make sure you've got the right safety gear, knowledge (sign up for a Level I certification with the National Ava-lanche Foundation, avalancheschool.org), and an insulated jacket, which could potentially save your ass. Telemark skiers: If you're heading out of bounds, remove your leashes—in an avalanche, attached skis can drag you down or hang you up.

At Home:
Skins losing their stick?.

Learning Curve: Trail Runners

Pearl Izumi Syncroseek III WRX Trail Runners
Pearl Izumi Syncroseek III WRX Trail Runners (Shana Novak)

Dress Well:
The thermometer may read 20 degrees, but once you get moving out there your body temp will quickly rise, and the last thing you want to do is sweat. Pair lightweight gloves and a hat with a wicking base layer (synthetics unload sweat faster) and a vest or a thin, breathable (or well-vented) jacket. If the mercury truly crashes, wear a vest or midlayer inside the jacket, plus wind-blocking underwear under tights or loose-fitting pants.

Get a Grip:
If your local roads and trails become slick with ice or snow, consider crampon-like sole upgrades. Yaktrax ($30; yaktrax.com) and Microspikes ($59; kahtoola.com) slip easily over your shoes, and La Sportiva ($16; lasportiva.com) makes spikes that screw into soles.

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